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Mass. public health commissioner tests positive for COVID-19

Massachusetts Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel.
Massachusetts Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel.Blake Nissen/The Boston Globe

The state’s public health commissioner, a leading figure in the response to the coronavirus epidemic, has tested positive for the virus, she said Friday evening.

Dr. Monica Bharel was tested Thursday night and received her results from the State Public Health Laboratory on Friday, she said.

Governor Charlie Baker, who has worked with Bharel in coordinating the state’s response to the novel coronavirus, has no symptoms of the illness and is not being tested, his office said Friday.

Baker expressed support for Bharel in a statement.

“Lt. Governor Polito and I wish Dr. Bharel a speedy recovery and are glad she is recuperating at home,” Baker said. “Dr. Bharel is doing exactly what everyone should be doing, which is staying home if you feel sick and taking this virus very seriously.”

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A Department of Public Health spokeswoman said Bharel’s close contacts have been notified of her test result, and those contacts do not include Baker.

Ann Scales, the spokeswoman, said Bharel “has practiced social distancing and has not been in contact with [Baker] since becoming symptomatic.”

Bharel said her symptoms have been mild so far.

“I have notified my appropriate close contacts and will rest and recuperate at home, while continuing to carry out my work responsibilities remotely,” she said in a statement. "The Department of Public Health offices will be thoroughly cleaned over the weekend.”

She closed by saying, “I hope everyone will continue to take seriously the threat of COVID-19.”


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.